News

Not Guilty: Brian Houston Cleared of “Cover-Up”

By: Brian Harris

Brian Houston, who co-founded the popular Hillsong Church, has been cleared of covering up his father Frank Houston’s abuse of a child.

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Brian had stood trial over allegations he did not go to the police when he learned his father abused Brett Sengstock from the age of seven. The abuse reportedly continued until Sengstock was 12 years old.

Brian also reportedly told the court that in 1999 and 2000 more victims of Frank’s abuse came forward.

Brian, 69, had pleaded not guilty of concealing a serious indictable offence, telling the court the victim insisted he did not want the matter referred to police.

The former pastor was found not guilty on Thursday by magistrate Magistrate Gareth Christofi.

“There is little doubt in my view that the accused knew or believed on reasonable grounds that Brett Sengstock did not want the matter reported to police,” magistrate Christofi said.

“Opposite of a cover-up”

Frank, who died in 2004 and was never charged over the crime, began abusing Sengstock in the 1970s. Sengstock, who has waived his right to anonymity, is now in his 60s.

It is understood Brian heard about the abuse in 1999, leaving him “speechless”.

While the prosecution alleged that Brian covered up the abuse, magistrate Christofi found that the former Hillsong pastor had been open about his father’s crimes within the church.

The court was told Brian told “many people” at Hillsong about Frank’s predatory and abusive behaviour.

And the ABC reported that Brian discussed the abuse in an interview for The Sydney Morning Herald in 2002.

“That is the very opposite of a cover up,” magistrate Christofi said.

“He spoke widely and freely about the matter in public settings.”

“Reasonable excuse”

Brian told the court he had a “reasonable excuse” for not reporting the abuse to police: Sengstock had told him he did not want it reported.

“What I was committed to was [Sengstock’s] wishes, not betraying him and his wishes,” Brian said.

While Sengstock told the court he never told Mr Houston he did not want the matter reported, the court also heard that Sengstock himself never reported the matter to the police.

“I express my sadness to Brett Sengstock, my genuine sadness about what my father did to him and all his victims,” Brian said after the verdict.

“He was obviously a serial paedophile. We probably will never know the extent of the paedophilia.

“A lot of people’s lives have been tragically hurt, and for that I will always be very sad. But I am not my father. I did not commit this offence.”

“I express my sadness to Brett Sengstock, my genuine sadness about what my father did to him and all his victims,” Brian said after the verdict.

History of Hillsong

Frank Houston was a pastor who established the Sydney Christian Life Centre in 1977.

Brian Houston and his wife Bobbie founded Hills Christian Life Centre in 1983.

Sydney Christian Life Centre was folded into Hills Christian Life Centre in 1999 and the church was renamed Hillsong Church in 2001.

The Pentecostal and evangelical church has since spread to 30 countries.

Brian retired as senior global pastor last year.


Article supplied with thanks to Brian Harris.

About the Author: Brian is a speaker, teacher, leader, writer, author and respected theologian who is founding director of the AVENIR Leadership Institute, fostering leaders who will make a positive impact on the world.

Feature image: Screenshot, Skynews

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